Our History

Clifton High School was established in January 1877 by a group of male and female visionaries with a belief in instilling in young people the value of education for life. The school ethos was based on two main principles, that:

  • The School should not discriminate on the basis of class but should be open to all pupils of good character, without social discrimination
  • It should be non-denominational, according religious freedom to staff and pupils

From its earliest days the School was ahead of its time, believing in strong ideals, a nurturing approach and high academic standards. When describing its first Head, Miss Wood, one of the pupils is quoted as saying:

I don’t think many of us forget those inspiring words…when Miss Wood used to take us into her confidence and tell us what she expected us to be rather than to do. It was always the loftiest of ideal, sometimes over our head but it developed leaders and inspired others with a new outlook on life.

Education at Clifton High remains true to these principles today.

Our background

Unlike many schools in Bristol, Clifton High was founded, not from a generous endowment or legacy, but from the simple will of a few people to provide a first class education for children. Without the financial foundations that many schools enjoyed, from its earliest times Clifton High is a School that has had to move with the times, be responsive to change and be dynamic in its approach. It does not stand still and is always looking to the future.

The fact that it is still here today is testimony to the quality of leadership and commitment of prior generations as much as those who lead the School today. The Heads of Clifton High are often described as showing courage and wisdom. School history books talk of its first Head Miss Woods:

She had carried the School through the first thirteen years of its life with courage, wisdom and devotion, and she left the tradition of her high ideals firmly established.

Of Miss Glenday who was Head during the Second World War they say:

The School owes to Miss Glenday an incalculable debt for the way in which under wise guidance it has been able to maintain, through one of its most critical periods, that steady continuity of progress which has been its characteristic of its 75 years.

Our School site

Clifton High originally opened its doors in 1878 at 65 Pembroke Road.  Around this time Clifton was at the height of its expansion with the Victoria Rooms, RWA, Christchurch and Whiteladies Road all recently constructed.  Within a year of opening its doors the School needed to expand and moved into a large house that had recently been built on College Road. That house can still be seen today as the core part of what is now the Main Building, alongside the beautiful beech tree and our well-trodden school lawn, so evocative today as they were then.

In the sixty years following its move significant expansion took place, the original hall was built in 1889 and a new wing added to the original house in 1927. In the mid-1930s the famous tunnel under the road and gymnasium were constructed. During this time the School also expanded into the houses on School Green and into properties on Clifton Park. By 1951 the School site was largely as it is today.

Our pupils

Although originally established in 1877 as a School for girls aged between seven and seventeen, just ten years later, by 1887, a preparatory class was set-up where boys were soon admitted. In 1994 boys joined the Junior School and in 2008 and 2009 respectively they were welcomed into the Sixth Form and Senior School.

Former Students

In the late nineteenth century,  Clifton High scholars won places at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Since then Clifton High has produced a long line of students who have gone on to achieve significant success not just academically, but in many areas and in many spheres of society. For information on our former students click here.